Education Opinion

Teacher Morale Plummets

By Walt Gardner — February 22, 2013 2 min read

The 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher confirms what was expected. I’m referring now to teacher satisfaction, which is the lowest in a quarter of a century. Specifically, only 39 percent of teachers said they were very satisfied, and more than half said they felt under “great stress” several days a week.

These results are not at all surprising in light of the pressure that public school teachers and principals are under to produce quantifiable outcomes. I warned about the trend three years ago this month (“The Beatings Will Continue Until Teacher Morale Improves”). I expect the next MetLife survey to be even more disheartening. I hope I’m wrong.

What’s given short shrift is the effect that low teacher morale has on students. Let’s not forget that no one goes into teaching for fame, fortune or power. Those who choose teaching as a career - not as a resume builder - genuinely want to help young people be all they can possibly be. They don’t always succeed, but they spend enormous energy and time trying. As a result, the last thing they deserve is unrelenting bashing. And that’s precisely what they’re getting. I liken the matter to kicking a person when the person is down. Burnout is slow to develop, but when it does it undermines the ability of even the most dedicated teacher to teach students.

Reformers are quick to respond that teachers have plenty of time to recover. They trot out the usual factors: long summer vacations, short teaching days etc. Of course, few, if any, reformers have ever taught in a public school, or if they did, it was decades ago when conditions were entirely different. I guarantee that they wouldn’t last a week in front of a class of students now. I say that because teaching was once fun. That’s no longer the case. When teachers’ jobs largely depend on posting ever increasing standardized test scores, the atmosphere in the classroom is unavoidably altered for the worse. Survival becomes the No. 1 concern.

I don’t think public schools will be recognizable a decade or so from now. The handwriting is ubiquitous. I’ve always believed in following the money trail for answers, and there is much money to be made by scapegoating teachers. The commodification of education in this country will accelerate, creating a juggernaut that cannot be defeated. I’m grateful that I taught when I did. I never got rich, powerful or famous, but I had a rewarding career. I think that’s what most teachers today also want.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read